Part 1. The Conversation
“The frame exists for the image.
The image exists for the frame.”
It’s an ongoing conflict, a never ending conversation.
So you listen. Patiently.
Sometimes, you hear a silence.
It is the signal you have waiting for.
Frame and image embrace.
Pay attention. Focus.
It only happens once.
Every time you visit the garden, you make a record.
You examine the evidence later, to make sense of what happened.
You are the witness.
You are grateful.
You’ve done your job.
– Mia Blumentritt, Visual Anthropologist (from the essay “Which Came First, the Image or the Frame?”)
Part 2. Quo Vadis
I’ve had a long history of transposing/substituting art making for thinking and ideation.
After pursuing the granularity of the brechtian idea as it applied to filmmaking, I painted myself into a corner.
In retrospect, what appeared to be a 25-year hiatus was really a personal retreat to contemplate where “attention to the frame” would lead me next.
I shifted back to my photographic roots to explore the nature of image making itself.
How is reality (re)constituted as an “image,” and what are the variables that control or contribute to this transformation?
What role does time (duration) contribute to the process of converting attention/reception, to absorption and functional translation?
I started my career in photography as a “chronophobic” practitioner, by showing artifacts/objects “after the fact,” i.e. as a result of a private performative event. I wanted to sweep personal history under the rug, by highlighting and foregrounding formal issues in the depiction of my subjects. History became subtext, and as long as it was “captured” and contained (albeit in a subterranean location) I felt progress.
When I shifted to film, I confronted duration directly. Time became the text. I discovered early on that what preoccupied me was the very infrastructure of creating the surface itself (in this case the tendentious (and simultaneously tenuous) relationship between that narrator and the narrative).
It led me to a new preoccupation. The new subtext became: where does the viewer reside? How does she locate herself in the consumption of the narrative?
The idea of awareness kept intruding into my consciousness, but I didn’t know how important it was at the time.
Does awareness of one’s consumption of the fabrication (e.g., the film) play into the “reading” of the film? In other words, how significant was it, from a reception standpoint, to understand the dynamics of how the frame and object/s inside the frame interacted. I looked at Tarkovsky and Chris Marker as prime examples of using internal formal devices (e.g., tracking shots, narrator voice/location, respectively) as navigational guides.
What interested me the most was how attention and awareness intersected dynamically. How do these two elements interact? Does awareness lead to attention? Or does attention lead to awareness?
I realized that I had a new agenda. To create an “oscillatory platform” where both elements could exist in a flux, if only momentarily. It was a place where both narrator and reader could co-exist on equal ground, as co-creators of a meta-narrative that I think is the main role of art. The fusion of subject and object, realizing that in the end, these dichotomies are simply guide rails to the path of true knowing.
I am not hinting at any essentialist metaphysics here. I am merely exploring and imploring the possibility that the essence and highest culmination of perception (and by extension, artmaking) as a process, is the perception of what, how, and why we perceive, and what meaning/s we create as a corollary to this process. I would even argue that meaning-making as an artmaking agenda, has to have an embedded implicit/explicit/complicit infrastructure to have any kind of significance or sustainability. It is a durable antidote to memory’s decay. Meaning-making, bereft of this perceptual reflexivity, is of dubious value, over the long view.
Knowing one’s location is a beautiful thing.
Every work of art interrogates the position of the viewer/receiver. That is always part of the architectural tension of any work. It’s just a matter of where, and how it is embedded in the form (or content) of the piece that elevates its significance.